23 March 2011

UCLB spin-out company, Canbex Therapeutics Ltd. (Canbex) announced today that it has received a Translation Award of up to £1.75 million ($2.8 million) from the Wellcome Trust to support development of a drug for the treatment of the debilitating muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis and potentially other disorders.

The award will facilitate further preclinical development of Canbex’s VSN series of compounds and the progression into clinical trials. It is anticipated that a Phase I trial of lead compound VSN16R could begin in December 2012.

“We are delighted that Canbex can move their lead compound VSN16R forward towards clinical trials,” said Dr Abbie Watts, Senior Business Manager at UCLB.

Preclinical studies have shown that VSN16R treatment reduces muscle spasms in an animal model of MS spasticity, with a far lower burden of side effects than the decades-old compounds that are currently in clinical use. Even at high doses, animals treated with of VSN16R did not show the limpness and muscle flaccidity, know as the “rag doll effect”, that is a characteristic of existing compounds.

“Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients urgently need more tolerable treatments for the painful and debilitating muscle spasms that many of them suffer, and we believe that VSN16R has the potential to meet that need, and enhance the quality of life for people living with MS” Dr Watts added.

MS is a serious and progressive chronic disease for which no satisfactory cure is in sight. Spasticity, characterised by sudden and uncontrollable movements of limb and torso musculature, is among the most painful, damaging and debilitating symptoms of the disease. It can manifest itself in the form of gait disorders, fatigue, spasms and pain. Spasticity can also occur in other conditions, including bladder dysfunction and spinal cord injury.

Current forms of treatment for spasticity are unsatisfactory, and a drug against spasticity that is well tolerated and effective could make a substantial difference to quality of life for MS patients and potentially many others.

Canbex has been developing its VSN series of compounds with the support of investors including Fast Forward LLC, a not for profit organization established by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, USA, to accelerate the development of treatments for MS. “Fast Forward’s support has been a uniquely powerful endorsement of our efforts, one which has encouraged other funders and the MS community to engage with us,” Dr Watts said.

About Canbex Therapeutics Ltd.
Founded in 2005, Canbex Therapeutics Ltd is a spinout company from The Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research at UCL (University College London) that is focused on the development of novel small molecule treatments for spasticity in MS and other neurological disorders. The novel orally active lead compound, VSN16R, is effective against spasticity in the Chronic Relapsing EAE mouse model of MS and has the potential to be substantially more tolerable than existing anti-spastic agents. The original work on this compound was conducted in the labs of the founders Professor David Selwood and Professor David Baker (now at Queen Mary University of London) by Dr Cristina Visintin, Dr Masahiro Okuyama and Dr Gareth Pryce.

Canbex is a virtual, low-burn company that was set up as a vehicle for the development of the VSN compounds. Building on the expertise of its founders Canbex has assembled a highly experienced team with expertise in pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, preclinical and clinical development, finance and business development. In addition to the Wellcome Trust investment, other shareholders and investors include Fast Forward LLC (an affiliate of the US National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation), the Bloomsbury Bioseed Fund; Esperante Ventures; and UCL Business PLC (UCLB). Operational and business development activities are managed by UCLB, the technology transfer office of UCL.

About the Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests. www.wellcome.ac.uk

About Fast Forward LLC
Fast Forward, LLC is a nonprofit organization established by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in order to accelerate the development of treatments for MS. Fast Forward will accomplish its mission by connecting university-based MS research with private-sector drug development and by funding small biotechnology/pharmaceutical companies to develop innovative new MS therapies and repurpose FDA-approved drugs as new treatments for MS. The National MS Society addresses the challenges of each person affected by MS by funding cutting-edge research, driving change through advocacy, facilitating professional education, collaborating with MS organizations around the world, and providing programs and services designed to help people with MS and their families move their lives forward. www.fastforward.org

For further information please contact Dr Abbie Watts, Senior Business Manager at UCLB on 0207679 9000